Thursday, April 1, 2010

Buckwheat Cinnamon Rolls (Gluten-free, Egg-Free, Vegan, Yeast-Free)

Since Easter is fast-appraoching I thought you might like a recipe for healthy gluten-free cinnamon rolls. I grew up eating homemade cinnamon rolls nearly every Christmas and Easter morning. The yeasty smell of rising rolls filling every nook and cranny of the house is a memory hard-forgotten. This was probably one of my favorite foods growing up. Luckily I watched and learned how to make cinnamon rolls over the years from my mother.

This recipe uses freshly ground buckwheat flour, which has a mild, light buckwheat-y flavor. The two main wet ingredients used are applesauce and cooked sweet potatoes which provide moisture and sweetness. This recipe doesn't require any xanthan gum, nuts, or seeds. Nor does it require any dairy-free milks. I wanted to keep the glycemic index lower and keep the recipe whole foods-based. I have not figured out how to make it without any starch (I use some tapioca flour), but if anyone does, please let me know.

I created a frosting recipe which reminds me of the Cinnabon frosting. Remember those huge rolls laced with a ton of sugar and fat and who knows what else? I can't even begin to imagine eating one now but this frosting does bring me back, with no ill side effects!

My children love these rolls. In fact, when I make them, the whole batch usually disappears before they cool. I just love knowing that they are eating all of this buckwheat-y goodness! Did you know that buckwheat is a fruit seed and not actually a grain? Though we use it much like other grains. I grind raw buckwheat groats into a fine flour in minutes using my Vitamix. You can also use a coffee grinder and do it in batches. 3 cups of buckwheat groats equals 4 cups of flour. You'll need a little extra so be sure to grind enough.

Health Benefits of Buckwheat:
  • It is naturally gluten-free.
  • Buckwheat maintains blood glucose levels and has been shown to be beneficial for diabetics.
  • Research has shown that buckwheat can help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Buckwheat is high in the flavonoid, rutin, which helps to prevent disease through its antioxidant effect.
  • Buckwheat is a rich source for magnesium (so are beans and nuts). Magnesium acts as a cofactor for over 300 enzymes in the human body! All reactions that involve ATP (the energy currency of our cells) depend on magnesium. Got magnesium?
Buckwheat Cinnamon Rolls

After following the basic recipe for the dough you can get creative for the filling. Pictured here is just the basic cinnamon and sugar filling but you could do more. You could reduce the fat needed to spread over the dough and use a prune puree instead. I would still add a small amount of oil to that but you decide. You can also process dates and walnuts in the food processor to spread over the rolled dough. Another favorite is a fig puree made from dried mission figs, boiling water, and orange zest. I would still add a little cinnamon and coconut sugar to some of these variations. Get creative, let your kids help, and enjoy!

Dry Ingredients:
3 cups+ raw buckwheat flour
1 cup tapioca flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Wet Ingredients:
1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup Grade B maple syrup
1/3 cup melted virgin coconut oil or avocado oil
1 tablespoon vanilla

1/4 to 1/2 cup softened coconut oil (or butter)
1/4 to 1/2 cup coconut sugar or another granulated sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons cinnamon

3/4 cup cooked, mashed sweet potatoes (still warm)
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons coconut oil (or butter)
2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil two 8 or 9-inch cake pans. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

2. Place all of the wet ingredients into a blender or vita-mix and blend until very smooth and creamy. Pour the wet into the dry ingredients and whisk together. Once it becomes too thick to whisk, use a wooden spoon. Add more flour until the dough forms a ball but is still a little sticky.

3. Generously flour a work surface using buckwheat flour or tapioca flour. Turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour if it is too sticky. The trick here is to add just enough flour to be able to roll out the dough but not too much otherwise the cinnamon rolls become too dense.

4. Roll out dough using a floured rolling pin into a large rectangle. Spread with softened coconut oil. Don't use melted coconut oil or another oil. This will cause oil to leak out of the dough from all sides which will make it impossible to roll and hold shape. Then sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon or your filling of choice.

5. Begin to roll from the long end down towards you. If your dough is sticking then try coaxing it with a large, thin spatula coated with flour. Once the dough has been rolled out, slice it with a serrated knife, and place the rolls into your oiled pans. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes.

6. To make the frosting, place all ingredients into the blender and blend until super smooth and creamy. Keep scraping the sides down and turn the blender on again to get this smooth consistency. Pour over the rolls as they come out of the oven. Enjoy with a hot cup of tea. Source:

Happy Spring! I love sunshine and fruit tree blossoms ~ it's pure heaven isn't it! ;-)

More healthy, gluten-free baked goods:

About the Author

Alissa Segersten holds a Bachelor's of Science in Nutrition from Bastyr University. She is the founder of Whole Life Nutrition, the mother of five children, a whole foods cooking instructor, professional recipe developer, and cookbook author. She is passionate about helping others find a diet that will truly nourish them, and offers elimination diet recipes, healthy gluten-free recipes, paleo and vegan recipes, as well as tips for feeding your family a nourishing, whole foods diet. Alissa is the author of two very popular gluten-free, whole foods cookbooks and guidebooks: The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook and Nourishing Meals. She is also the co-author of The Elimination Diet book. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram!


  1. Oh my gosh these look amazing!

  2. Oooh, yum! Thanks so much for sharing this (and for making it vegan, too!). I am definitely going to have to try this out this weekend :)

  3. Ali, those memories of yeast rolls are imprinted in my mind, too. Your recipe looks wonderful. Happy Easter to you!

  4. These look really delicious!

    Do you use the Dry Blade container for the Vita Mix or the regular container the basic model comes with (the Wet Blade container)?

  5. Thanks gals! Metta - I use the dry container of the vita-mix for grinding grains into flour, and nuts & seeds into a fine meal. You can use the wet container but you will need to grind the buckwheat in small batches. Otherwise the flour overheats and can stick in one big lump on the bottom of the container. When I visit my mom this is how we do it - she doesn't own the dry container. :)

  6. Wow, they look amazing! Thanks for the tip about grinding flour in the wet container. I had both containers, but gave away my dry one after we went gluten-free.

  7. Oh ali, these look wonderful! Thank you, yeast free, xanthan free, everything free, and still AMAZING looking! Wow, you are incredible.

  8. Does your site have an easy way to print the recipes?

  9. Do you think one could use canned pumpkin in place of the sweet potatoes? Thanks!

  10. Do you think canned pumpkin would work for the sweet potatoes? These look delicious!

  11. I would never have thought of mashed potatoes in a frosting - I can't wait to try this.

  12. Ali - these are just beautiful. I've been thinking about making cinnamon rolls for this weekend, but my posted recipe includes eggs and ALOT more of the white flours/starches. I will definitely give your recipe a try. Thank you for all of your wonderful efforts!!!


  13. for Passover (if you follow Sephardic tradition, as we do!)
    BTW--ever since making your fresh-ground buckwheat pizza dough (using the coffee grinder), I've been using a lot more of the fresh-ground buckwheat flour. It is so mild tasting! Since I can no longer eat matzah, I've been experimenting with kosher for Passover GF grains the last couple of years. Last year the "oatzah" was way better than the "buckwheatzah." But this year, with fresh-ground buckwheat flour, the buckwheatzah totally wins! I am in heaven! Thank you so much, Ali.

  14. Do you think one could use canned pumpkin in place of the sweet potatoes? Thanks!

  15. Suzanne - yes, at the very bottom of each post there is a small green button that says "printer friendly" - just click on it and print the parts of the post you would like. :)

    Kristin - I haven't tried canned pumpkin so not sure how it would work. Canned pumpkin does have less moisture than a freshly steamed sweet potato so that may affect the overall results. Please let me know how they turn out though! :)

    Thanks all for your sweet comments, hope you enjoy! :)

  16. These look wonderful!

    How do I just soften the coconut oil instead of melting it?

  17. You have done it again Ali! Thanks for posting all the health info on buckwheat-I didn't know all that. Finally, cinnamon rolls that are not only guilt free, but that I am inspired to make.

  18. Sarah - You can soften the oil in your hands just before spreading it over the rolled dough or place a small amount in a pan over low heat. Some if it will liquefy but make sure most of it stays solid. Then take a fork and stir it so it is soft and uniform. If your kitchen is warm enough the oil should be soft enough from the jar. It just needs to be spreadable, not hard nor completely liquefied. Hope this helps.

    Hope you all enjoy! Happy Spring! :)

  19. This recipe makes me happy. You have inspired happiness today. :)

  20. Ah! The cinnamon rolls! Those look amazing Ali! Love the frosting combo too, sounds delish and gives me some ideas :)

  21. I'm amazed at some of the things you come up! I'm learning more and more things I'm sensitive to, so I have to be really careful with my baking lately, and aside from the filling, I think these should work perfectly for me. Thank you!

  22. Wow, cinnamon rolls that won't make me feel guilty about eating them! I'm really contemplating making these for Easter. Yum.

  23. I LOVE buckwheat, and these rolls look fantastic. Will have to try these out for brunch this weekend!

  24. Ali,
    Made these this morning, and got mixed reviews. Husband ate them because they were what was on the table, son loved the "frosting" but wasn't thrilled with the buns. But, they are not "alternative" eaters, as I have been forever. I loved them. Thanks!

  25. These were super yummy. We enjoyed them at our Easter brunch. I found them to be super quick/easy to make, even though the recipe sounded a little intensive at the start. Hopefully we won't eat them all today!


  26. Yummy yummy! I made these this morning and they were great! I used buckwheat flour from the store as I don't grind four myself yet, and it did have a rather strong taste, but delicious anyhow. I found them very filling and satisfying, 2 were enough for me for breakfast (I usually eat 4 of the baking powder bisquit ones I used to make with spelt!). Anywyas, thanks for sharing this recipe. I'm always thrilled to sneak vegetables into baking for my unsuspecting chidlren!!!


  27. Oh, how beautiful, Ali! You are a genius when it comes to such recipes. :-) I had such an awful experience after eating a Cinnabon roll in an airport shortly before being diagnosed gluten intolerant, I'm not sure that I want to emulate that frosting. I might have to do something slightly different. ;-)

    Thanks so much for the recipe, and thanks, too, for the link to my "bran" muffin!


  28. I tried this today. i used ready-made flour as i have no buckwheat nor a way to grind it. now i wish i could try the freshly ground buckwheat... sounds like it is a better buckwheat. i also used canned sweet taters. we just don't have access to the fresh ones where we live. They turned out well and hubby liked them. great to have a healthier option in grains and sweeteners! if i had placed them closer together i think they would have baked together and been softer on the outside edges rather than crusty.

  29. Can I use arrowroot powder instead of the tapioca flour?

  30. First off, thanks everyone for the great feedback. So glad you made them and enjoyed!

    Anon - I have not tried arrowroot but I think it could work. With the 1 cup used in this recipe you may have a slight chalky aftertaste. If you have a chance to leave another comment after making them that would be great. I am sure others are interested to know if arrowroot will work as well. :)

  31. I was wondering if the sweet potatoes you used are the dark orange variety or the light yellow ones? I have your cookbook and love your other cinnamon roll recipe (I've made it 3 or 4 times already) and am excited to try this one too.
    With the cookbook recipe the only changes I made were to substitute the coconut oil in the filling w/ earth balance's soy free spread (I wasn't sure how to get the coconut oil to be the right consistency, but I noticed you answered that question in the comments for this recipe). I also found it easier to spread the dough out with cold wet fingers onto a piece of floured plastic wrap that I used to roll up the dough just before cutting it.
    Thank you so much for sharing your recipes in your cookbook and blog site they have been so helpful,

  32. Hi Ali,

    Love the thought of these! Any ideas for people like myself who cannot tolerate coconut and coconut oil? It seems like an important component, but I was wondering if a spread like Earth Balance soy free might work.
    Thanks so much!


  33. AJ - I use the white sweet potatoes in this recipe - both for the frosting and rolls. Thanks so much for your tips on rolling the dough - very helpful! :)

    Katie - Yes Earth Balance would work in the filling in place of coconut oil. You can use grapeseed oil for the dough. Enjoy! :)

  34. Hi Ali!

    I made your cinnamon roll recipe this morning and wanted to report that it is fantastic! I probably make the buckwheat pancakes from your cookbook at least 1x per week so I always have fresh buckwheat flour. I ran out of applesauce and added an egg to replace the missing amount. My kids loved them. What was really impressive was your frosting. i didn't think it would be so tasty.

    I have a chicken cooking right now for the wild rice salad. Thanks again for sharing all of your recipes with us.


  35. Ali, I made these this weekend and the taste was great; however, they were a little on the dry side. After careful review of the "printer friendly" copy, I noticed that it did not call for the applesauce in the wet ingredients section like the blog does. Now I know why they turned out a little dry. I'm excited to give this recipe another try and see how they turn out with applesauce in the batter.

  36. Lara - great, thanks for the feedback. Glad to hear that the egg addition worked well! :)

    Anon - I just took a look at the printable recipe and I see - no applesauce. I think it is because I linked to it in the post. I'll remove the link so it shows up. So sorry about that. I had no idea.

  37. In the oven! I'll have to see how these turn out. When I printed the recipe it somehow didn't include the applesauce in the wet ingredients so I added more sweet potato then I checked the website which did include applesauce too. The dough looked dry still so I added applesauce. It rolled up brilliantly on my silpat (I'm a little bit in love with my silpat).

    The extra potato in my dough left me short for the frosting so I replaced it with applesauce. So I hope my juggled rolls turn out nicely!

    This recipe is yet another reason I wish I had a Vita-Mix or Blend Tec. Someday...

  38. I used the regular buckwheat flour sold at our health food store and really wish I hadn't. They were actually terrible :(

    No one ate them so they went straight into the compost which was a shame considering that they took an hour and half for me to make.

    I don't have any grain grinding ability currently so I think I'll try these again with some other flours and see how they turn out. I'm thinking sorghum and potato starch.

    Thank you for getting my wheels turning though!

  39. A lil late on this Cinnamon Roll recipe but I must say I made these last night with my two girls 5 and 3, they turned out awesome! I took a trick from another commenter and used saran wrap to perfect them. Thanks you so much I love your recipes all that I have tried have turned out so wonderful. It was so nice to be able to have a sweet breakfeast treat that is somewhat healthy and allergen free. I also was impressed it was not that hard to accomplish and I have two tots and an almost 1 year old so that says a lot! Keep up the awesome recipes we have been sending people to your site~

    Kristina and Family

  40. Hello I live in Mexico. All our family is gluten, sugar, dairy and soy free. First time I see your blog and got hooked! your recipes are wonderful!!! So bad I can´t get your book!. A friend that came from the US brought me a small bag of buckwheat flour (bob´s red mill) you think it woould work for this recipe or your carrot-raisins muffins one?

  41. I made these this morning and they are almost gone. They were really, really good. Honestly, I had my doubts. The frosting was sooooooooooooooo good. I did buy gluten free buckwheat flour. I bet it is not as mild but it worked fine. Not sure how you do it with four. My four are under 5 and sometimes the thought of doing something new (grinding my own flour) just seems way to overwhelming. Delicious recipe. Thanks so much.

  42. This recipe is amazing! I used a date puree w/cardamom (instead of cinnamon) for the filling. They were a huge hit! Thank you Ali for sharing these fun recipes!!

  43. Although these buns look delicious in the oven, we encountered problems getting the proper consistency of dough and measurements of ingredients. Would highly recommend NOT substituting the buckwheat flour! Thanks for such a unique recipe, the hard work did pay off in the end! :)

  44. I have been enjoying recipes from your blog for about a year now. I am grain-free and just recently discovered that I can eat buckwheat. Sadly, I cannot tolerate tapioca. I wonder how the person who suggested arrowroot found the recipe? I can also use potato flour. Could that replace the tapioca in equal parts?

  45. I'm just about to put these in the oven, and oh my do they ever smell fantastic! I didn't have any arrowroot and actually forgot to add xantham gum but it seems to be holding together really well and has a wonderful dough like feel.

    I also used 2.5 cups buckwheat, 0.5 quinoa and 1 cup of almond flour. I can't eat maple syrup so used agave nectar, reduced.

    These look so promising, thank you so much! I can finally enjoy a healthy, gluten free cinnamon bun! :D

  46. I just made these with pumpkin instead of sweet potato, and pumpkin pie spice in the filling instead of cinnamon. I didn't make the frosting, but they were still delicious.

  47. do you think these would work with tapioca flour in place of buckwheat? i really don't care for buckwheat and it doesn't digest well for me, but these look awesome!!!

  48. i was wanting to make these for thanksgiving but i have no arrowroot powder and i have NO idea where to find it around here... is it necessary to have? or can i substitute it for something else?

  49. Eatthecookie- no these would not work using all tapioca, they would be very gummy.

    Anon- you could try tapioca in place of the arrowroot in the frosting.

  50. Could you recommend something to replace the applesauce? I'm on a low fructose diet so can't use it. Would mashed banana work instead? These look delicious and I can't wait to try them, although I will have to use bought buckwheat flour as I don't have access to ANY processor or grinder of any kind, so will have to see how they turn out!

  51. Is it Kasha that you grind to make the buckwheat flour?

  52. made this recipe for cinnamon rolls and they turned out absolutely perfect...except i used the orange sweet potatoes so the frosting was a bit bright for other people, but once they ate it they fell in love like i did. never thought i would get to eat a cinnamon roll again, i am beyond happy. making them again for christmas morning. thank you so much for sharing!

  53. re: Buckwheat Cinnamon Rolls

    This looks wonderful, though I don't think I'll have that much time in the morning. Can any of this be made ahead? Thanks!

  54. Doesn't seem anybody asked about this yet, so I will:

    Word on the web is that soaking buckwheat is healthier than not soaking it. Can you soak the 3 cups of buckwheat flour beforehand, and still have the rolls turn out well?

  55. Ali - these look and sound delicious. I used to love to make yeast bread cinnamon rolls and eat them hot out of the oven. I am excited to make the gluten free variety for the family on New Years morning. Thanks for the inspiration!!

  56. Anonymous said...
    Doesn't seem anybody asked about this yet, so I will:

    Word on the web is that soaking buckwheat is healthier than not soaking it. Can you soak the 3 cups of buckwheat flour beforehand, and still have the rolls turn out well?

    August 6, 2012 at 10:23 AM

    In my experience, it's better to sprout the buckwheat...soaking it makes it gooey and it will ruin your recipe. Just rinse it under water, and let iti sprout for 2-3 days, rinsing once or twice a day. (You can leave it on your kitchen counter in a large, fine mesh colander, to sprout). Then on the day you bake the cinnamon buns, don't rinse the buckwheat, leave it dry, and even try to pat it down a bit with a paper towel to absorb any moisture (you could dehydrate it if you really wanted to!).

    I love this recipe! I have made MANY different versions of the past 8 months, with teff flour, oat flour, more fruit and no sweetener etc etc, and I am still trying to find my perfect version!!

    Buon appetito!

    Lisa Virtue
    Natural Chef

  57. Just curious... why didn't you throw in some yeast? You wouldn't have to let them rise, but you'd get get that marvelous yeast smell while baking!

  58. i pressed the dough out with coconut oil instead of flour right on the pan then rolled and cut into pieces. so much easier than bulking it up with more flour. worked like a charm. the buns turned out beautifully.
    great recipe - thank you!

  59. How long should I give myself in the morning to make these if this is my first time? Also how many rolls does this recipe make?


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